Speed Reads

L'Affaire Cohen

Firm tied to Russian oligarch also hired 2nd Trump lawyer, registered alt-right and fake news web domains

In what it describes as a coincidence, Columbus Nova, the Russian-linked New York investment firm that paid $500,000 to President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen last year for unspecified investment consulting, also hired Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz to represent it in a commercial lawsuit, ProPublica reports. A Kasowitz spokesman told ProPublica that Kasowitz and his partners represented Columbus Nova in a lawsuit from 2010 until early 2017, and said Cohen's brief time working in Kasowitz's Manhattan offices in February 2017 had no connection to the Columbus Nova work.

Columbus Nova, which used to call itself "the U.S. investment vehicle for the Renova Group” but now refers to Renova as a client, is led by CEO Andrew Intrater, a cousin of Renova owner Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch. A spokesman told ProPublica that Kasowitz did not introduce Columbus Nova to Cohen. Columbus Nova, like several other companies, paid Cohen through Essential Consultants LLC, a shell company he set up in October 2016 to secretly pay porn star Stormy Daniels to keep silent about her purported extramarital affair with Trump. The shell company's existence wasn't known publicly until The Wall Street Journal revealed it in January.

Oddly, Columbus Nova is also listed as the organization behind a strange collection of website domains registered two days after Hillary Clinton gave a high-profile speech denouncing the alt-right, The Washington Post reports. The websites — which include alt-right.co, alternate-right.com, alt-rite.com, and other alt-right iterations plus CNNjournal.com and 1-800getalife.com — are not operational, and they were registered under the name Frederick Intrater, Andrew Intrater's brother and a design manager at Columbus Nova. A Columbus Nova spokesman said Frederick Intrater did not register the sites on behalf of the company, the Post says, "even though he had used his company email address and listed the organization."

"Perhaps Frederick Intrater is just a savvy domain squatter!" says Gizmodo's Tom McKay. But this is a super weird plot twist in an already bizarre story.